Jessica Pera
Jessica Pera

Farm fined for backpacker death

A CHILDERS farmer has been fined $25,000 for failing to provide water, shade and sun protection to workers on the day a German woman died in their tomato field.

Backpacker Jessica Pera, 24, died on her second day of working as a fruitpicker for Barbera Farms in Childers and the company yesterday faced the Brisbane Magistrates Court for breaching Workplace Health and Safety rules that day, December 11, 2009.

The facts of the case were not read out in court, but prosecutor Trajce Cvetkovski told the court farm managers had failed to implement, monitor and review safe practices for workers operating in hot, outdoor conditions where they were at risk of heat stress.

“A potentially safe environment was made unsafe due to a lack of supervision,” he said.

He said farm bosses had identified and assessed the hazard of heat stress but had failed to make sure its workplace health and safety practices and controls were adhered to.

“The potential for harm was evident,” he said.

“Working in heat without ensuring workers were protected while working in fields.”

Barrister Sandy Horneman-Wren, SC, said his client operated a highly labour-intensive and casual workforce.

“They need to be more vigilant, that’s represented in their plea here today,” he said.

Magistrate Paul Kluck ordered no conviction was to be recorded, taking into account it was Barbera Farms’ first offence and their co-operation with the investigation.

“The hazard, the risk of death or injury to the workers ... there was a failure to ensure the implementation and adherence to the control measures,” he said.

“The defendant has since comprehensively reviewed its safety management system.”

The cause of Ms Pera’s untimely death have not been released to the public and even her parents were forced to wait several months for any news.

The German couple made a desperate plea in the NewsMail for answers about their daughter’s death more than three months after she died.

Guy Barbera, the director of Barbera Farms which has since gone into receivership, yesterday confirmed they had failed to “adequately manage the hazard of several workers working in heat.”

“Barbera Farms regrets its failure in this regard and has since made several improvements to its safety management systems,” Mr Barbera said.

“Barbera Farms maintains that it continues to be a safe employer to work for and confirms that it is still an employer of choice for many workers who look for work in its industry.”

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